If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make your resume stand out. And you’ve probably gotten a lot of really good advice. Unfortunately, you’ve probably also gotten a lot of bad advice. Bad advice that’s led to your resume landing in the “no” pile.
While you know not to start with an objective statement, you probably don’t know that a few other common resume additions look almost as bad. Even if you’re including them for the right reasons.
Here are three things that you might want to rethink throwing on there:
1. Saying You’re Fluent in Another Language to Impress the Hiring Manager
If you took four years of Spanish in high school and went abroad one summer to help people in need, that’s great. However, if you’re not 100% fluent, be careful about listing that language in the Additional Skills section of your resume. Especially when you’re applying for a job that requires fluency in a particular language.
I’m not bilingual, so I didn’t understand just how seriously hiring managers take fluency in another language until I became a recruiter. While it’ll vary from interview to interview, remember that hiring managers can test your ability to speak another language if you say you speak it.
In a number of interviews I’ve been in, we’ve asked someone on the team who’s fluent in a particular language to converse with a candidate. If someone wasn’t up to snuff, we figured it out pretty quickly. So, unless you’re super confident in how well you speak a particular language (as in you could conduct the interview in the other language easily), be as clear as possible about your actual skill level on your resume. Even if that means adding words like, “basic understanding of.”
2. Using Industry Jargon to Make Yourself Sound More Impressive
When I worked in marketing, there were a lot of things I did on a daily basis that I knew would make zero sense on a resume, especially if I applied for a job outside of my industry. However, even though I knew this, I still made the mistake of using a lot of that jargon on my resume because I thought it sounded good. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get nearly as many calls as I thought I should have for certain gigs. And when I did get called in for interviews, I found that it took half the meeting to explain those pesky marketing terms I insisted on using.
Fast-forward a few years to my stint as a recruiter, and I finally realized how difficult it is to sift through industry-specific jargon. On the few occasions when I had time to do so, I’d Google certain terms to make extra sure I wasn’t missing out on someone awesome. Usually though, I didn’t have time. And even though I knew I might be missing out on a great contender, I’d have to pass.
To avoid this altogether, assume that you’re trying to explain your previous work to your parents. We’ve all been there, and while Mom and Dad will probably never understand what you do completely, you’ve likely given them enough info to at least get a general idea of what you do for a living. Don’t be afraid to dumb things down on your resume a bit—recruiters will appreciate this attention to detail more than you think.
3. Including a Photo of Yourself to Be Memorable
I’m sure you’re a really nice looking person. But, every time I’ve come across a photo of someone on a resume—usually right at the top where it just can’t be missed—I’ve had one reaction to it: I’ve laughed. A lot. It just looks bad.
While some of those candidates ended up being at least good enough for a phone interview, the impression your resume photo makes on a recruiter is difficult to change throughout the process. Most of the interviewers I’ve been around have had the same reaction to a photo at the top of a resume as I’ve had. It’s not fair and it’s not nice, but it’s the kind of insider scoop your nicer friends might not let you in on.
Thankfully, LinkedIn is a much more accepting place of profile photos. In fact, you’d be silly not to include a photo on your LinkedIn profile.
Typically these resume mistakes are made by people who are trying hard to make a good impression. And I applaud you for trying your hardest. But when you’re polishing your resume up, remember sometimes less is more. You’re great, you’re sharp, and everyone who reads your resume will see how talented you really are.
Photo of trash cans courtesy of Shutterstock.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author